In every book and story—or at least every good one—a character develops and changes over time, and this is good because it’s realistic: in real life, everyone changes from day to day; who I am on Monday might not be the same person you greet on Tuesday, because I’ve learned things and grown a little, and that means my worldview and how I interact with myself, other people and society has changed. However, in books, the character development is usually more marked, because the point of the book is for the character to learn about something as she or he goes about his journey, and without this development, the story would seem a little strange and pointless, as if it shouldn’t have occurred at all.
This got me thinking about an INFP’s “character development” over time; in other words, how a person of the INFP personality might change over the course of their life, in accordance with their personal traits and characteristics. It would be different for every type: but since there are unique traits, like introversion and a mind prone to daydreaming, which all INFPs share, our character developments should, I think, sometimes follow the same trajectory.
First, let’s go all the way back to our infanthood. I think INFPs would be quite intelligent babies, because we end up growing up into rather intelligent people, and be prone to sleeping less than other babies and being more engaged and explorative of the world around them. Once childhood hits, and walking and talking enter the picture, in the home sphere, we’re likely to be quite chatty and active, because we’re comfortable with our family members, while outside the home, we’d be prone to stranger-aversion and quite touchy about being with people we don’t know.
Childcare would be another kettle of fish. That’s where our introversion would truly come out to shine, because we’d definitely be the kid that sits quietly playing with puzzles by ourselves or dress-ups with that one other friend, completely absorbed in our tasks, in an almost autistic fashion, because we’re good at concentration, creative, bright and love having the ability to let our imaginations run wild. Socialisation with other kids who aren’t quiet and strange like us will be non-existent, if there at all. We just don’t get along with other people at this point, and are closest to our own fantasy worlds and the odd friend, imaginary or not.
Primary school, or middle school, if you live in America, would be another playing field. Here, we finally begin to learn the ropes of socialisation and our character undergoes a metamorphosis, where we don’t just isolate ourselves and learn to interact with people for the sake of following social norms and because being an outcast is a hard, lonely life to lead. However, we’re still at the stage where we’re not capable of making genuine, real human relationships, because everything we do or say is “copied” or “learnt” from others: we haven’t got the hang of socialisation and have decided the best way to make friends and get along with other people is to put on a mask, talk a lot, and pretend you’re happy. Thus begins the unhappy stage of an INFP’s character development, where we feel stifled in a society that doesn’t accept us for the daydreaming introverts we are, and while we read and borrow books at a frenetic pace, expressing our individuality through our imagination and creativity in private, in public, we still go along with the crowd and do what everyone else does, for fear of rocking the boat.
Then there’s high school. Oh boy. Here’s where problems really start t to begin: puberty plus a cocktail of social anxiety means the INFP is bound to run into trouble, and plenty of it, either in the form of bullying, depression or feeling like an outcast. Because they’re intelligent, they’ll often do well in school and be considered a “nerd”, and much of their time, when not pretending to be happy and fit in—a continuation of their primary school years—is spent reading by themselves in the library or bathroom cubicles, where they can escape from the world and other people. More likely than not, they’ll not see certain boys or girls as real people but princesses and princes on pedestals and fantasise about them from afar, while believing themselves to be ugly, socially awkward and wretched. At this point in an INFP’s character development, they’ve most likely reached their ultimate “low”, where they feel like the worst possible version of themselves, both inside and on the outside, and are painfully awkward and cringe every day at their own awkwardness, and feel like life is an endless, dark tunnel they can’t seem to get out of.
Then comes adulthood. Free from the constraints of high school gossip and bullying, with the Internet at their fingertips and several hundred books of knowledge at the back of their mind, INFPs begin to come into their own, slowly at first, but gradually faster, as they realise the world outside the education system isn’t a bad place for dreamers—in fact, it’s the dreamers, creators and creative types of the world who are often the most successful and happy. Of course, the INFP goes through ups and downs, but eventually, they find an inner confidence as the progress through adulthood they didn’t possess before, mainly due to understanding themselves and learning more about life and the world, and realise who they are, someone who delights in the strange and magical, who loves Christmas like children and fawns over sparkles and glitter, and would never hesitate to help someone who is suffering, is a beautiful person, through and through. It is to be expected that INFPs still carry a backlog of pain from their early years, but this soon fades, as they discover their passions and grow into themselves, ready to sally forth into the world full of imagination and creativity, and being the best possible version of themselves they can be, each and every day.